Spatial awareness

Jackson Biko wonders why he can’t pluck up the courage to assert his territorial rights while on a flight

Spatial-AwarenessWhere is your elbow as you read this? Is it on your armrest? Or is that being hogged by the bushy eye-browed chap in the next seat reading the book with many cartoons? Doesn’t the eternal question at 30,000 feet remain: To whom does the armrest really belong? You will forgive me, dear traveller, for deviating from the ethos of this column (family) to discuss this. It’s been on my mind for a while now. Gnawed away at me. Who owns the armrest when you are seated smack in the middle of two blokes?

I ask because I once sat in the middle of two large Afrikaners with bony and hairy elbows that reminded me of an elephant’s knees. Rugby types, I supposed. I felt like a small extinct breed of man, sitting sandwiched between these two towers of humanity, my hands meekly on my knees like I was seated outside the headmaster’s office. I can’t remember a time in my life I ever felt so small and powerless. As I sat there I wondered why my manly power was challenged and I suddenly realised that it was more than these chaps’ size. It was the fact that I wasn’t able to spread my wings. I was imprisoned by these two Goliaths.

I couldn’t find a way to nudge my elbows across and reclaim at least one side of the armrest. I thought about it for a long time (from when they served the main meal to coffee) but just couldn’t pluck the chutzpah to push one of those knee-elephants out. Asking them was out of the question. (I don’t speak with people during flights for the simple reason that they might not stop speaking and I won’t get a chance to read my book.) I seriously considered asking the pretty airhostess (you can already guess this is a KQ flight) to ask the one on my left to move his elbow. He seemed to have taken a shine to the airhostess, so maybe his heart would be softer than his elbows. But then that would make me look weak, like I was reporting him. So yes, maybe he would move his elbow as the airhostess stood over us, but only to show her what a gentleman he really is, what a true prince with a kind heart he is. But there was no telling what would happen if she moved away.

I’m ashamed that I didn’t do anything. I sat there and brooded and felt weak and disempowered (I hope my son never ever reads this issue when he grows up).

But that incident really got me thinking about who really owns the armrest. There should be a sign on the seats indicating very clearly whose elbows belong where. There should be a rule to protect the men with normal-sized elbows. And eyebrows.